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Vulnerability in Physical Therapy

My name is Kayla Koren, and I am a second-year Doctor of Physical Therapy student at A.T. Still University in Mesa, Arizona. I was born and raised in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, and I had a passion for sports physical therapy for as long as I could remember. I grew up playing numerous sports, with tennis being my main passion for many years. I spent the majority of my high school years training at a tennis academy in South Florida, and playing for Arizona State University’s club tennis team during my undergraduate years. With having my own personal sports injuries, the physical therapy setting of outpatient orthopedics was all I knew for a long time. However, through all of my observation and work experience, I felt that there was still something missing, but I did not yet know what that was. Over this past year, I have had the chance to get to know and build relationships with two of my program’s professors, both of whom are pelvic floor therapists themselves. This is how I was first exposed to the pelvic health subspecialty of physical therapy, and when I discovered that I have a strong interest in researching the topics within pelvic health.

It was back in September of last year that I took a chance in being vulnerable with one of these professors in discussing my own seemingly mild pelvic health issues, which in the following months, led me down a path to finding answers to these issues that I have waited years for. I started my own pelvic floor physical therapy sessions in October of last year, was referred to a pain specialist in January of this year, and ended up having a very invasive, yet necessary surgery in March. I now know that part of my passion for pelvic health also stems from these personal experiences and struggles I have had with hormonal imbalances, autoimmune disease, and other women’s health conditions.

If I had not been willing to be open and ask about my problems with my professor, I would not have found the answers I so desperately needed. I believe that vulnerability is vital in this profession, both from a patient and provider perspective. Vulnerability can be uncomfortable, but what this past year has taught me is that I need to “get comfortable with being uncomfortable.” This is a quote I have heard from many people throughout my life, yet it surely came to fruition recently. I strive to practice this vulnerability and openness as much as possible throughout my day-to-day life by sharing my story with friends, peers, and even with people I do not know as well. I believe that this can only help me as I move forward in my schooling and soon enough, my career as a physical therapist.

When I started my program one year ago, I never would have thought that my future career path would change this much, but I am so glad it did. I am now lucky enough to be working with these same two professors on a pelvic health-related research project, and I could not be more excited. Also, now that I am a second-year student, I am set to take the Pelvic Health Physical Therapy Level 1 Lecture & Lab in just a few short months, and I am also grateful to the Academy of Pelvic Health for granting me a course scholarship to also learn about the pregnancy and postpartum population. I cannot wait to start applying this information in our school’s pro-bono clinic throughout my second year and in my women’s health rotation in my third year. I do not doubt that this is the population I am called to serve, and I am looking forward to continuously learning and challenging myself throughout my career.

Written by Kayla Koren, SPT, Scholarship Recipient

Author Bio: Kayla Koren is a second-year Doctor of Physical Therapy student at A.T. Still University in Mesa, Arizona. She is a student board member for the ATSU Center for OT & PT, the school’s pro-bono clinic that strives to serve the underserved community. She is passionate about Women’s Health Physical Therapy, and plans to pursue this specialty in her career.

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